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Celebrating flavors around the world

March 1, 2019 GMT

NEW BUFFALO — You might learn that Wales is believed to have more castles per square mile than anywhere else in the world; see how Romanians dress; sample a coconut tart from the Bahamas; enjoy delicious Austrian chocolate balls; or discover what the flag of Nigeria looks like.

It was the Tasting Tea & World Thinking Day at New Buffalo Elementary School, hosted by 10 Girl Scout troops from Michigan City, New Buffalo and Three Oaks, Michigan, which comprise Girl Scout Community 203.

Girls, ranging in age from kindergarten through high school, represented the Philippines, Nigeria, Yemen, Jordan, Wales, Turkey, Austria, Norway, Romania and the Bahamas.

The Girl Scouts’ goal was to educate other Scouts, and their families and friends, about their chosen country.

They provided foods using recipes from the country they chose, made crafts that represented the culture and distributed SWAPs (Special Whatchamacallits Affectionately Pinned Somewhere) to sister Scouts.

Some girls also chose to dress in typical native attire. And they set up booths with displays featuring educational facts about such topics as famous people, customs, geographics, symbols, animals, sports and other topics of interest.

While the SWAPs were free, the girls sold the tastes and crafts for a small fee, usually 25-50 cents. Half of the money raised was kept by the troop to offset operating costs for the event. The remaining half was split between Community 203 and the Juliette Low World Friendship Fund, which helps girls around the world continue in Girl Scouts (or Girl Guides as they’re called in some countries).

“Of the events we have been putting on, this is by far the most popular and timeless,” said Amy Mark, Troop 30304 Leader and event coordinator for Community 203.

“The girls really get involved in it. They get to know that they are part of a sisterhood of girls around the world. Every year we have different countries represented so they learn about a new part of the world.”

The troops are given a list of all the countries that are members of the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts (WAGGGS). WAGGGS has five world regions, and the goal is to have a country from each region represented. Through a detailed system, the troops’ country choices are approved, making sure countries chosen in the past five years are excluded.

“Before we started this system, we had troops representing mostly European countries and usually Mexico, that the Scouts already knew about, every year. With this system, we think the girls get more out of the event,” Mark said.

She said it’s usually held in conjunction with World Thinking Day, which was Feb. 22. As explained on wagggs.org/en/what-we-do/world-thinking-day/, the day of international friendship has been celebrated since 1926. It’s also a chance to speak out on issues that affect young women, and raise funds for the 10 million Girl Scouts/Girl Guides in 150 countries.

Karen Woodruff, a co-leader for Troop 00486 in Michigan City, said, “It’s a good opportunity for the kids to explore other countries and learn about the Girl Scout cultures there.”

The girls in her multi-age-level troop chose Wales and offered tastes of cawl, a ham and vegetable soup; Welsh cakes, biscuit-like cookies with raisins and bara brith; and dried fruit bread.

Eight-year-old Mica Gaskey, a member of Troop 00486 in Michigan City, enjoyed attending the Tasting Tea & World Thinking Day event for the second time.

A big fan of macaroni and cheese, she was ready to get her second helping of macaroni pasta with béchamel, a dish she picked up at Troop 00012’s booth representing Yemen. That troop also offered a Yemini guava smoothie and mahalabie (a Middle Eastern milk pudding).

“It’s wonderful,” her mother, Cara Hrivnak, said about the event. “You get to learn different things from other countries that you would never learn otherwise and you get to try different foods.”

Michigan City Troop 00028’s booth focused on Jamaica. Co-leader Amanda Fowler’s friend married a man from Jamaica who helped the Scouts with the authentic maglooba dish. It contained chicken, cinnamon sticks, dried lemon, jasmine rice and other spices.

Cardamom pods, which he assisted in obtaining, were another ingredient, and then “whatever vegetables that are in the house are used,” Fowler said.

“What is cool is it’s in one pot – I can’t believe there’s cinnamon in it,” she went on.

The event kicked off with an opening ceremony where the girls said the Pledge of Allegiance along with the Girl Scout Law and Girl Scout Promise.

“One year we had a moment of silence to think about the WAGGGS theme that year, which had to do with obstacles to girls around the world having education, and how thankful we are that we have education available to girls beyond sixth grade, unlike many developing countries.

“The next year, we did not,” said Mark. “Afterward, I was approached and asked, ‘What happened to the moment of silence?’ I did not realize what an impact that had on the girls and adults present, so since then we have to include it.”

Girl Scout Community 203 sent invitations to La Porte and Rolling Prairie Girl Scout leaders in Community 204, and many leaders and Scouts enjoyed attending the even, as they had in past years. Community 204 is holding a World Thinking Day Event on Sunday, March 31, from 2 to 4 p.m. at Rolling Prairie VFW Post 9423

Mark said the Tasting Tea & World Thinking Day event has been celebrated by area girls for over 40 years.